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Industry News
Resort entertainment takes
Center stage
March 20, 2015

Developers continue to diversify on-site offerings, creating memorable guest experiences that translate to added value for all parties involved.

By: E.M. Lindholm

A Cirque du Soleil dinner theater show. A colossal four-season waterpark. High-flying zip lines. A pirate-theme adventure park. Timeshare resorts continue to diversify on-site entertainment offerings, going above and beyond amenities guests have come to expect with the addition of customizable experiences that translate to added value for all parties involved. Without having to worry about any of the logistics that usually accompany an off-site activity, guests get to have a unique, hassle-free experience that reflects a resort’s character and location—all while staying close to “home.”

Exploria’s day in the sun

Exploria Resorts’ Buccaneer Bay Adventure Parkundefined, which opened in October at Summer Bay Orlando, the flagship property of the new Exploria Resorts brand portfolio, has been a hit with guests and owners, resort general manager Mario Plasencia says.

The five-acre park features seven kid-friendly “challenges,” including a skull-topped rock-climbing wall, bumper boats, the Pirate’s Plunge zip line and the Jolly Roger bungee experience, among other attractions. “We wanted to create another on-site guest experience to bring all members of the family together while on vacation at Summer Bay Orlando,” Plasencia says. “The Adventure Park provides an alternative to Orlando’s world-class attractions and provides an on-site experience which Mom, Dad, the grandparents and the kids can all enjoy together.”

While park admission is complimentary, you need a wristband to experience the feature attractions; the wristband also grants access to the resort’s 18-hole miniature golf course and the Lakeside Marina & Aqua Park. The Shipwreck Café and a gift shop round out the new offerings.

Exploria Resorts is on track to complete a $14 million renovation this spring, and its owners have been “overwhelmingly positive” about the latest on-site upgrades. “The newly introduced Club Exploria vacation club product is shaping up to be one of the most benefits-packed vacation clubs ever to be offered to our owners,” Plasencia says.

Next up: Exploria is opening a 10,000-square-foot activities center at Summer Bay Orlando in 2015, directly in response to requests for a community gathering space from owners who are planning vacations around milestone events, such as birthdays, anniversaries and reunions.

“Club Exploria is designed around the concepts of ‘bringing the world a little closer’ and ideal family vacations. Both the Buccaneer Bay Adventure Park and the activities center will be key additions to the delivery of this experience,” Juan Barillas, chief operations officer of Exploria Resorts, says.

The resort’s latest developments further the company’s mission and provide plenty of opportunities for family photo ops. “We always strive to work together to provide our guests with unforgettable family memories that they will cherish for life,” Plasencia says.

Massanutten: Nature’s playground

At Massanutten Resort, a four-season destination commanding 6,000 acres in Virginia’s scenic Shenandoah Valley, experiential is the operative word. Thanks to the resort’s prime location and expansive campus, “owners and guests are able to have a dynamic activity experience in a truly majestic and historically significant area,” Matthias Smith, Massanutten’s general manager, says. “Quite simply, our entertainment offerings are enhanced by our natural surroundings.”

The resort offers one of the largest on-site amenities packages anywhere in the world. Popular activities include an indoor-outdoor waterpark, which is open year-round; a mega zip line and forest canopy tours, the latter a new feature at the Family Adventure park; horseback riding; mountain biking; golf; and a slew of winter snow sports. Additionally, “we are close to Civil War historic sites, several of the Commonwealth’s top wineries and countless natural attractions,” Smith says.

Back on campus, the WaterPark, a $35 million playground of shoots, tube slides and fun water features, is a perennial family favorite. Visitor response has been tremendous, Smith says, noting that the WaterPark is one of only two indoor waterparks in the state and that the Pipeline attraction is one of the last triple-jet FlowRiders constructed, if not the last one. At the Pipeline, “FlowRider lessons are offered to teach people to ‘surf the indoor wave,’” Smith says.

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Massanutten is constantly adding to its on-site amenities and entertainment features. This spring a 13,000-squarefoot snow-sports learning complex will open.

“Our process is forward looking: assessing what is happening throughout the industry while staying attuned to our customers,” Smith says. “After an idea is developed, it is vetted by the department manager and/or director. The key question we always ask is ‘Is this going to significantly enhance the overall guest experience?’”

Grupo Vidanta’s Cirque connection

As part of a groundbreaking partnership—a first in the timeshare world—Mexico’s Grupo Vidanta in November unveiled a permanent new home for Cirque du Soleil’s latest production, JOYÀ, at Vidanta Riviera Maya. The show is Cirque du Soleil’s only current resident show outside the United States and the brand’s first foray into dinner theater.

“At Vidanta we are always looking to enhance the already amazing guest experience and redefine what a vacation is,” Ivan Chavez, Grupo Vidanta’s executive vice president, says. “One of our most ambitious goals is to become a global leader in entertainment, putting our guests at the heart of the action with internationally acclaimed performances and immersive experiences right at the resorts.”

JOYÀ plays up to eight times a week in the 600-seat Cirque du Soleil Theatre, an intimate venue by Cirque standards. Chavez describes the theater as an “architectural marvel” that is situated on an island in a lagoon in the Mayan jungle close to Vidanta’s Riviera Maya resorts, including Mayan Palace and Grand Luxxe.

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JOYÀ gives members and guests the chance to experience Cirque du Soleil just steps from their resort hotels,” Chavez says. “It also lets them feel pride in knowing that their vacation partner will always deliver amazing experiences.”

Sold out well into 2015, JOYÀ has had a wonderful response from guests and the international community, Chavez says. “JOYÀ marks the beginning of a new era for Vidanta, one in which world-class entertainment is woven into the vacation experience so guests can enjoy incredible performances directly at the resorts. It also represents the first of many collaborations between Cirque and Vidanta.”

As a part of the next phase of Grupo Vidanta’s growth, the group is developing what Chavez calls an “experience park” at Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta in conjunction with Cirque du Soleil and theme-park-industry leaders that is scheduled to open in 2018.

“The park will include Cirque performers who will embed themselves among park visitors and interact with them, surprising them at every step—it will be as if the visitors were entering a giant Cirque du Soleil show,” Chavez says.

“We expect that the park will create an entirely new entertainment category; nothing like this has ever been attempted,” he says. “We want to create experiences that ‘inspire generations of happiness,’ and the park will certainly do that.”